Can a Scam Be Considered Art?

Can a Scam Be Considered Art?

From bananas taped to canvases to invisible sculptures constructed out of literal nothingness (don't even get me started on the glut of inane NFTs currently dominating the market), the credulity of the art world has been stretched dubiously thin in recent years. As artists continue to push the envelope with their work we're forced to reevaluate the line between what constitutes conceptual art and what is just some elaborate con hidden behind a smokescreen of MFA language-laden artist statements.

Currently a Danish artist is under a deal of scrutiny after having taken $84,000 from a museum to incorporate into a new piece but instead returned with two empty canvases, having changed the title of the work to "Take the Money and Run." Artist, Jens Haaning, was originally commissioned by the Kunsten Museum of Modern Art in Aalborg, Denmark to recreate a pair of works from 2007 and 2010 that illustrated the annual incomes of an average income of an Austrian and a Dane.

In addition to compensation for the work itself, the museum provided Haaning with bank notes for the piece and an additional 6,000 euros to update the work according to the contract. However, when the museum opened up the crates they were surprised to discover two empty frames with the curator receiving an email from Haaning stating that "he had made a new piece of art work and changed the work title into 'Take the Money and Run.'"

"The work of art is that I took their money," Haaning told a Danish broadcaster, explaining that "It's not theft. It is a breach of contract, and breach of contract is part of the work." The artist went on to explain in his statement that the work was created in retaliation to what he viewed as less than adequate compensation for his inclusion in the show. Haaning also pointed out that the cost of reproducing the work today completely misses the point of the original work by focusing on a quantitative snapshot of data that is over a decade old. "Why should we show a work that is about Denmark... 11 years ago, or one that is about Austria's relationship with a bank 14 years ago?"

Haaning has declared no intention of returning any of the money. The Kunsten has yet to decide whether or not they want to involve police or take legal action against the artist instead opting to wait until the end of the exhibition to see if he changes his mind. "When it comes to the amount of $84,000, he hasn't broke any contract yet as the initial contract says we will have the money back on January 16, 2022," Museum Director Lasse Andersson says. The two have yet to reach an agreement.

Photo via Getty


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